Education and competition, with an eye on an occupation

Hope Forman has always wanted to go into the field of medical services.

Whereas Pagosa students like Forman were once limited in their academic and extracurricular options, she, along with a surprising number of her fellow Pagosa High School students, is getting a chance this year, like never before, to explore their interests and talents in vocational, business, medical and forensic fields, through the extracurricular clubs Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), Skills U.S.A. and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA).

Forman is the student president of HOSA, founded this year under the supervision of business teacher, Cindy Nobles. Forman, along with a handful of other PSHS students, have not only been exploring occupational opportunities such as dental assistance, forensic medicine, medical photography, CPR and first aid, but they also put their skills to the test in March against other students statewide at the HOSA state competition.

The Pagosa chapter of the Skills U.S.A. club — for students interested in automotive trades, welding, drafting, architecture, certain health occupations, 3-D visualization, computer maintenance, diesel mechanics, criminal justice, crime scene investigation and more — was also conceived this year by industrial mechanics and vocational teacher Becky Guilliams. Last week, five students traveled to Denver to showcase their skills in these areas at the state level.

According to chapter member Emmi Greer, of the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), she and her teammates made a strong showing at the district competition, and sent more than 20 competitors to the state competition in Vail this week. Accounting, business math and calculations, client services, impromptu speaking and word processing are just some of the talents they’ll have a chance to exercise at the state level. Cynthia Toner is the school supervisor of FBLA.

What all this means, according to Guilliams, is that students with an affinity and ability in the vocational and business arenas finally have a place to shine.

“I have fourteen students in the Skills U.S.A. club,” said Guilliams, “which is really amazing. I thought I’d be lucky to get four or six. There’s such an interest, because there’s nothing else for some of them. A lot of these kids are not necessarily athletes, some of them are in the school plays, but a lot of them aren’t. These kids excel in working with their hands, and this is the first opportunity to really work with those skills.”

It is largely the same story for students learning and competing in business and medical areas. The HOSA competition, for example, “was full of learning, opportunities, new friends and, of course, fun,” said Forman. “All of our members had been practicing and getting with mentors for all of our events. This varied from dental assisting, nursing assisting, forensic science, CPR/first aid, all the way to medical photography,” she said.

In fact, for the students involved in HOSA this year, the very act of starting up the club allowed them to test their cognitive, organizational and leadership skills. “We kind of had to play the whole figuring-out-everything card. Which wasn’t easy at first, but now we have all of it down,” said Forman.

FBLA, for its part, is a gathering in the spirit of American business, according to Greer. With a mission to bring business and education together in a positive working relationship through innovative leadership and career development programs, participants are sure to have a chance to work out their mental prowess and set goals for the future in a way that school alone may not afford them.

In addition to enriching the students’ high school careers, Pagosa’s increased participation in so many state vocation and business challenges is reflecting well on our little community as a whole.

At the March 5-7 HOSA conference in Denver, six students represented our corner of the state. Daryn Butler competed in dental assisting and job-seeking skills and the “HOSA Bowl.” Butler took second place in dental assisting and will compete at Nationals on June 25-27 in Nashville, Tenn.

Kalie Ray participated in the forensic medicine, medical photography, and basic health care events. She was a state finalist in medical photography. As was Denise Espinosa, who also placed in medical photography, in addition to competing in the “HOSA Bowl,” and nurse assisting.  Forman and Shanna King competed in both the “HOSA Bowl” and CPR/first aid. While Robert Trujillo represented Pagosa High School in forensic medicine, CPR/first aid, and basic health care.

Meanwhile, Guilliams took five students to the Skills U.S.A. meet in Denver last week. Daniel Roeder competed in welding, Matt Fischer in architecture. And Cherise Morris, Robert Trujillo, Randell Rudock will work as a team in the crime scene investigation event.

And the list of skilled PSHS business and vocational competitors goes on. The FBLA state competition in Vail will welcome Danielle Pajak and Jordan Davey in accounting, Jacob Haynes and Ryan Searle in business calculations, Casey Crow, Lars Schneider and Garret Stoll together in E-business, Mary Haynes in business math, Kelsea Anderson in client services, Jeff Reardon in impromptu speaking, Tayler McKee in word processing, Logan Secrist in business procedures and Jacob Anderson in marketing. Sarah Stuckwish joined the group traveling to Vail at the last minute, and Jacie Harms and Julia Adams will attend to present the Peak Award and Community Service Projects.

“The FBLA competitions are such an amazing place to meet with other kids who want to make America a better place,” said Greer, who, two years ago, was the first freshman ever to qualify for nationals.

As is so often the case when people win big, many of the students and teachers involved in this sweep of state competitions by HOSA, Skills U.S.A. and FBLA will tell you: “We couldn’t have done it alone!”

Indeed, what makes these students’ successes even sweeter is the fact that many members of the Pagosa community have put forth a great deal of time and effort to help mentor and teach the youngsters about their chosen fields of interest.

For example, Nobles, with HOSA, explained: “We have twelve different locations which graciously agreed to take students for a week’s time, in place of their attending the class, to mentor them and to allow them an opportunity to experience the day-to-day routine and responsibilities of a medical professional or assistant. Included in these placements are family medicine, women’s health, dentistry, physical therapy, veterinary medicine, geriatric care and ambulatory care at our hospital. Students overwhelmingly expressed appreciation for this experience at their week’s end and several would like to pursue part-time work in these settings over the summer. We have also had guest speakers including an EMT, a clinical nurse, and a hospice care provider.”

Down in the vocational building on the PSHS campus, meanwhile, big things have been happening as well. “ We had a welder in, teaching kids something I had no idea how to teach them,” said Guilliams. “We also had Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) coaches teaching Matt Fischer in preparation for his competition. The community’s just jumped right in and said, ‘you tell us what you need and we’ll do it.’”

And the club has had to do a fair bit of asking. Each Skills U.S.A. team needs a coach with expertise in the area. “The people in the community that have been asked to coach these kids have gone above and beyond call of duty. For somebody to take that kind of time out of busy schedule is really awesome,” said Guilliams.

Which is to say nothing for the amount of time and energy that Guilliams, herself, along with Nobles and Toner, devote to these students and their extracurricular activities. As Forman said, “This will be a trip I will never forget. I had so many good memories. It was a blast, and I learned a lot. This all wouldn’t be possible without our advisor though. I think I speak from all of us when I say thank you to Cindy Nobles (and to Becky Guilliams and Cynthia Toner, their students would surely add). And, of course, thank you school board who supported us and gave us the money to be able to go up to Denver. This will be something that I will never forget.”

For more information about Skills U.S.A visit their Web site at For information about how to get involved locally, contact Becky Guilliams at To find out more about HOSA, visit or Contact supervisor Cindy Nobles by e-mailing You can contact Cynthia Toner regarding FBLA at

Photo courtesy Joanne Irons
From top, are Robert Trujillo, Daryn Butler, Kalie Ray, Denise Espinosa, Hope Forman and Shanna King. The six Pagosa Springs High School students competed in a variety of events in March at the HOSA conference in Denver. The school’s Health Occupation Students of America chapter was formed this year.

Photo courtesy Joanne Irons
Daryn Butler, Kalie Ray and Denise Espinosa, left to right, are members of the Pagosa Springs High School Health Occupation Students of America chapter. Butler competed at the recent “HOSA Bowl” and took second place in the dental assisting category, qualifying to compete at the national event in Tennessee. Ray was a state finalist in the medical photography category. Espinosa placed in medical photography and competed in the “HOSA Bowl” and in nurse assisting.